Who’s the boss? You or your phone?

The dinner is on the table, the milk has been poured, and everyone dives in. Well, everyone except one. There is one person at the table checking their phone.

No. No. Not my daughters.

Like many households, we have a no-device-at-the-table rule. Apart from the occasional reminder my kids have done well to remember and even respect this guideline. It has long been established that the dinner table is a great time to regroup and connect as a family. I am embarrassed to say, however, that there is a rising star in this rule-breaking – my husband. Having recently started a next chapter in his career he is more in demand than ever. Add this to our societal shift of “all things must be answered now” philosophy and you have a dinner-time-device debacle.

Check out this hilarious video below from Commonsense Media:

This mobile mania doesn’t stop at the dinner table and it doesn’t only include my husband. I’m guilty too. It bleeds into all aspects of our lives. Sitting on the sidelines of a soccer game, bored at the shopping mall, and a personal favourite: scrolling the internet WHILE watching tv! (Double points for that one!)

Fellow blogger, Andrea, and I chatted about this after her screen-free vacation.

Has mobile technology use become an addiction? Just for kicks, we decided to assess our own dependency by developing a questionnaire (we are a bit nerdy that way). Here is what we came up with:

  1. Can you sit through a whole movie without googling who “that guy from something” is?
  2. Do you feel a wave of panic when you realize you forgot your phone at home?
  3. Have you picked up your phone to check the time and then lost an hour playing games or checking social media?
  4. Do you feel anxious when your phone buzzes and you can’t check it right away?
  5. Has your kid gotten upset with you for missing something because you were on your phone?

Well, how did you do? I said yes to more than I care to admit. Now remember, this is tongue in cheek. There is no validity in this test, but it did get me thinking.

Can I be unplugged? Is it ok if I can’t be reached for an hour or two? Are we controlling our phone or is the phone controlling us? I can be better than this. I think a lot of us can.

Any behavior change needs to start with buy-in. Do you think you need to re-evaluate your mobile practice? In the spirit of behaviour change I offer the following suggestions:

Put the phone away. Take your phone out of your pocket, pry it out of your fingers and leave it in a designated location in your home. Now if you are waiting to hear when your child needs picked up that’s one thing but otherwise do you really need it when you are folding laundry? Remember this isn’t just about parenting presence and role-modeling; this is about your overall mental health. It is exhausting being ‘on’ or ‘in demand’ all of the time.

Turn notifications off. Allow yourself time to be unplugged. Turn notifications off during family time; meals, game night, story-time. Sure you won’t know right away if someone has texted you, but is that so terrible?

Establish rules as a family. Family media contracts can help guide the conversation. There are many things to consider; social media and texting are part of it, but what about work or school use? My daughter’s school only offers online textbooks. That would need to be factored into our family contract.

Use another way to communicate. Consider using the phone for its intended purpose. (Are you looking at me with a blank stare?) Have you ever reflected that some texts take longer to type than a call to share the information would take? There is a reason why my kids still don’t feel comfortable answering a phone. It rarely rings! But it is a good skill to have and sometimes the voice of a loved one really does trump an emoji.

Power off and play. Nothing complicated here. Head to the park, go for a skate, play hide and seek. Don’t feel like heading outside? How about a puzzle, colouring book or game? Pick any activity that doesn’t require a screen and you are good to go. Healthy Kids Community Challenge has many tips and tricks for all ages!

The advancement of mobile technology has provided  many benefits, but there is a balance to be achieved here. It is still pretty new and we are still learning how to live with it.

It is time to be mindful. Memories aren’t made behind a screen. Put your phone down. Go make some memories for the scrapbook of your life.

Oh and if you send me a text and I don’t respond right away? Please be patient. I’m probably hanging with my family or (more likely) folding laundry. 😉

Do you have any tips or thoughts on mobile dependency? Please share with us! We love to learn.

For parenting information or to speak with a public health nurse (every Monday to Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.) simply dial 311 or 905-825-6000.

About Nicole O'Donnell, RN

Hi! I have been working as a nurse supporting children and their families in acute care, clinic settings and now in public health for over 20 years. As a mother of 4 girls I am walking the walk and talking the talk – from early elementary to high school; life is never dull! I am so thrilled to be connecting with all of you and look forward to sharing this parenting journey together!
This entry was posted in Babies, Mental Health, Parenting, preschoolers, School-aged Children, stress, Teens and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Who’s the boss? You or your phone?

  1. Pingback: We went on a family vacation… Without any screens | HaltonParents

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